• 30 Jan 2015 /  Lists

    With the age-compounding news that I Know What You Did Last Summer, a film from 1997 – also known as last week – is being remade (or ‘re-imagined’ as these bullshitty projects are now nominally dubbed), and the merciful slowing trend of grab-bagging any “sounds cool” film title from way back when and stuffing it through the Remake Generator 3000 – what, I ask myself, is left for them to plunder? Hmm…

    DEADLY BLESSING 1981

    Why, God, why? The odds of this one eventually happening must be quite high – Wes Craven has seen Elm Street, Last House on the Left, and The Hills Have Eyes all remade in the last few years.

    What would they do to it? Given the religious backdrop DB is set against, one can only imagine all manner of minority groups picketing it and being offended all over the show; though Craven had the sense to manufacture his sub-Amish society, I doubt whichever 25-year-old was put in charge of the production would be capable of thinking so logically. Expect the trio of heroines to wear the skimpiest of skimpy shorts and at least two of them make out with one another to tease the religious boys, ’cause, you know, nobody but straight men watch horror films.

    Should they? The original isn’t that well known and the story is solid enough. Only would this be acceptable in mature, craft-heavy hands.

    *

    CHERRY FALLS 2000

    Why, God, why? If you’ve ever encountered the original script for this one, you’ll know it was way more awesome than the finished product, albeit getting most of said awesome from it’s fucking cool central plot device: The killer only goes after virgins!

    What would they do to it? As all media ever now pretty much endorses underage sex, I foresee a PG-13 production along similar lines to that wretched Prom Night re-do, wide-eyed, under-studied teen stars (at least three of whom will also be singers) shrieking a lot and talking sensibly about sex and the responsibilities thereof.

    Or, it could go NC-17 and be a gigantic slutfest. Either way, it’d be female-teen centric, girls would be punished far more than boys and the end lesson would be something out of a 7th Heaven episode.

    Should they? A remake based on the original script – yes. Otherwise, leave it.

    *

    HELL NIGHT 1981

    Why, God, why? Name. This one almost happened. Say, five years back there were ‘talks’ about sending a bunch of frat and sorority students to a manor house ‘haunted’ by a crazed killer.

    What would they do to it? Because of the success of When a Stranger Calls and the forever-grim Prom Night redux (that’ll keep cropping up, soz), Hollywood execs, who I can only assume drool over Excel spreadsheets of weekend box office results, had their evil eyes on updating this genre classic into guess what? PG-13! Not that the Linda Blair orig was dripping with grue and boobs, but c’mon? Slasher films should contain at least some slash. Thankfully, it appears to have fallen off the radar, but I imagined a more-or-less straight up Xerox only with unpleasant bitchy girls and scheming frat boys everywhere you look.

    Should they? No. Hell Night‘s plot is so derivative it could be woven into any new film, see the Terror Train/Train saga. It’s name really isn’t that well known outside of dorky websites such as this and, unless we get another retro-fest, I think this one might escape unscathed.

    *

    GRADUATION DAY 1981

    Why, God, why? Yet another calendar-date psycho slasher film, ripe for the remake, a film titled Graduation Night to star Zac Efron was rumoured in the wake of his High School Musical escape plan. As yet, nothing more.

    What would they do to it? *sigh* I’m as tired of dredging up fucking Prom Night as you are of reading it, but it was stupidly successful for a movie so barren of anything. Others wanted a slice of the pie. The idea of a track team done in is every high school geek’s dream, but you know the cast would be a bunch of steroid-infused 28-year-olds trying to pass for 17. Death by various athletic equipment should also return with a pole-vaulting vengeance.

    Should they? Yes! I’m not precious about Graduation Day; production wise it is piss poor, and there are some cool moments that would update nicely (except that stupid sword-through-football thing), but it’d need to be harder than PG-13. After four years of high school, there are people you want to see die. Bloodily.

    *

    THE BURNING 1981

    Why, God, why? Infamous Video Nasty of shears-toting caretaker has also bee rumoured for a remake for some time. Like Graduation Day, the original film isn’t that wonderfully made: The script is all over the place like a drunk F1 racer, it had the worst excuse for a lead character in Alfred, and it was uncompromisingly violent.

    What would they do to it? Hopefully, not much more than tighten a few screws and clean it up. The story has all the hallmarks of a genre classic, it was heavy on the grue and the nudity, boasted a cool score, and has stood the test of time to some degree in terms of reputation. I don’t see how it would work as anything less than an R-rated bloodfest, Cropsy doesn’t snip fingers off just to see it cut from the final print. I have the nagging feeling it’d be adorned with some class-straddling teen romance, say uptight middle class girl and wrong-side-of-the-tracks boy. Ugh.

    Should they? Only if the budget was high enough to get it off the starting blocks with any hope of being good. Too many summer camp slasher films attempt to get by on $75 and a few bottles of ketchup.

    *

    ALONE IN THE DARK 1982

    Why, God, why? You’re Next proved the fusion of home invasion horror and slasher conventions can be awesome; this film covered much of that ground thirty years earlier. They re-did Mother’s Day with a similar edge, so why not this too?

    What would they do to it? Alone in the Dark is one of the few early 80s slasher films that injected a bit of humour into grim proceedings. You’re Next traded quite heavily on comical denouements for its characters, and with four escaped psycho patients tormenting a family, what is there to lose?

    The original film is flawed with too little focus on females, be they victims or ass-handing heroines, that would need to change. If it doesn’t go lighter, take it darker – make those escapees really shady and unnerving.

    Should they? Again, I have no particularly strong binds to the original and wouldn’t feel my heart break the way it did over the announcement of the Halloween remake. Yeah, why not?

    *

    Other vulnerable species:

    • Girls Nite Out. Early 80s campus shenanigans interrupted by a psycho dressed as a cheerleader-hating teddy bear! Too little action and a real WHAT? reveal scuppered a great idea. Do it.
    • Curtains. Curious fan-favourite with a bunch of starlets knocked off at the open audition for a film at a house in the middle of nowhere. Production nightmares kept it on the shelf for three years. Cast a bunch of YouTube stars everyone already hates and let the blades fly.
    • Dark Night of the Scarecrow. Made-for-TV films don’t come much more frightening than this tale. Seasoned actors played good roles for a change and the creep factor severely outweighed any gore. Leave it be before we have to see one of Will Smith’s kids leading the charge.
    • The Final Terror. Daryl Hannah and Rachel Ward are probably still cringing at this early years resume filler: Survivalist types are stalked by a primeval loon in the woods. Wrong Turn has it covered, but a non-comic overdo with a few more bodies might be decent. Just remove the Three Blind Mice singalong.
    • He Knows You’re Alone. Yes! Change it to a high-society celebrity wedding at a castle or something and have the bride-stalking maniac crash it. I’m thinking bride in her big dress fighting him off would be amazing.
    • The Prowler. Another nihilistic early-80s maniac-after-teens title few remember much about beyond the top-notch Savini FX work. The rest of the film is so coma-inducingly boring perhaps just a 30-minute cut of the good bits would do. Actually, make it 15 minutes.
    • Slaughter High. For sure a reputed mid-80s example, why does Slaughter High suck so bad? Could it be the British actors overdoing their accents? The shoddy production values? That weird-ass ending? Caroline Munro’s rather pitiful shower-flow? Who knows – the idea of nerd inviting bullies to bogus reunion is fun, let’s see it again with more care and attention.

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  • 27 Jan 2015 /  Reviews

    THE MUTILATOR

    1984/18/86m

    A.k.a. Fall Break

    “By sword, by pick, by axe, bye bye!”

    Director/Writer: Buddy Cooper / Cast:  Matt Mitler, Ruth Martinez, Bill Hitchcock, Connie Rogers, Frances Raines, Morey Lampley, Jack Chatham, Ben Moore.

    Body Count: 7

    Laughter Lines: “Why would [someone] just take the battleaxe?”

    ____________________________________________________________________

    Here’s one that just cannot live up to that awesome artwork and tagline: As a kid, Ed attempts to clean his father’s gun collection as a birthday gesture and ends up accidentally shooting Mom dead. Understandably pissed off, Dad – Big Ed – all but disowns his son.

    Years later – 10, 15, it’s always a multiple of five – Ed and a group of college friends are stranded on campus during their fall break until a fortuitous call summons Ed to his father’s beach house to close it up for the winter. Ka-ching. Boredom alleviated.

    They explore, flirt, play Monopoly, all the while unaware that Big Ed is lurking in the garage under the house, daydreaming about bloody revenge on his son. For now, cutting up the tag-alongs with various fishing implements will have to do. There’s disembowelment by outboard motor, giant fishhook in the foof, amongst usual beheadings and impalements.

    The Mutilator should really be call The Garage, as that’s where a good 50% of the film takes place. On no less than two occasions, characters looking for their absent friends meander in under the assumption that said friend is inside. One guy spends almost three minutes talking to a door with NO evidence that there’s anyone behind it. Turns out, of course, that Big Ed is toting a pitchfork right behind the door, relieving us all of the monologue.

    Eventually, it’s down to Ed and his goody-goody virginal girlfriend Pam to save themselves, and they triumph in one of the film’s more inventive grisly denouements. Sadly, inventive griz is all The Mutilator has going for it, the makeup FX work is genuinely above average, but it’s buoyed out by the off-putting cheapness of everything else present.

    The central cast muddle through their roles unconvincingly, albeit way better than some of the non-thesp extras, but the slack pacing, dumb-as-hell character behaviour, and the magnetism of that fucking garage just leads us down a road of impatient annoyance.

    OK, so it’s not really fair to rag on a film of such a low budget; there’s at least some chuckles provided courtesy of the acting and flypaper-adherent ‘plot developments’, let us observe some of the amusement:

    Disclaimer: If you’re the one to pick it up and ask what it is, you’re the one to be slain with it

    *

    A good shot from The Mutilator. Scratch that, THE good shot from The Mutilator.

    *

    I wish this were a gif so the surreal trembling this guy does as he’s sawn up could be shared

  • 22 Jan 2015 /  Lists

    Last, but by no means least, we turn to the Halloween franchise to countdown the best characters therein.

    Strangely, I found it difficult to elect many characters I genuinely liked… I don’t know why, I like all the Halloween movies (bar Season of the Witch, that can go fuck itself), but they seem a tad short on super-fab-I-want-to-be-your-friend types, as we’ll see…

    Mya // Rob Zombie’s Halloween II

    There’s not that much to like about either of the RZ Halloweens, largely because he populated them with objectionable, self-absorbed twats for characters. That said, Brea Grant (also in Midnight Movie) as Mya was my kinda girl. Specs, spunk, and attitude – though not a bad attitude, unlike Scout Taylor-Compton’s horrible excuse for a heroine. I was sad she died.

    *

    Charlie the cop // The Revenge of…

    Cops in slasher films are rarely afforded names before they’re done away with almost summarily: They usually exist to get in the way a bit and take an axe to the head. Charlie (Troy Evans), makes a small exception to that rule by going all out to protect little Jamie Lloyd from her marauding uncle, calling her the bravest little girl he’d ever met and standing up to an increasingly unhinged Loomis. Alas, it does fuck all to save him, but he has the honor of dying to protect a child. Good show, Charlie.

    *

    Sassy Reporter // Halloween II

    This chick only appears for a matter of seconds during the better scenes of Halloween II (before the dull hospital drama), don’t you just love the giant cravat thingy? The bouncing hair? The amazingly proto-Gale Weathers approach of: “You need their parents permission to make a statement, if you can’t find their parents, get a statement anyway.” Awesome.

    *

    Mrs Blankenship // The Curse of…

    Most of Mrs Blankenship’s screen time in Halloween 6 is inconsequential. She owns a rooming house across the street from THE MYERS HOUSE! and babbers on about being Michael’s babysitter that night, but things peak when it turns out she’s a part of the Thorn Conspiracy, turns around wielding a huge knife and greets Marianne Hagan’s heroine by saying: “Hello dear,” like any huggable grandma.

    *

    Rudy // Resurrection

    The most likeable of the reality TV explorers in the much-hated (but loved by me!) Halloween: Resurrection. With gal-pals, Rudy (Sean Patrick Thomas) wanders around THE MYERS HOUSE! looking for clues about what turned Michael into a loon. His main character trait is his love of food. Not eating it, creating it. He’s probably also the only person to ever stop one of these psycho’s by throwing the right mix of herbs in his face…

    *

    Annie 2.0 // RZ’s Halloween II

     Danielle Harris is something of an enigma in the Halloween realm, playing two different characters. We’ll get to the other one later, but here, she also became another character rarity: the not-final girl who survives (in the ‘first’ movie). She’s has more to do here as the resentful best friend of Laurie, disapproving of her BFF’s wayward lifestyle, nursing scars of her own. It’s a good performance from Harris, in contrast to her bouncy-sexy high school girl schtick.

    *

    Dr Hoffman // The Return of…

    Bitchy Loomis-adversary Dr Hoffman is another minimal backgrounder, though Michael Pataki got his name in the name in the opening credits for the mammoth two scenes he’s in. Still, his presence is amusing, not least for his tired-of-your-shit attitude towards Loomis: “For Christ’s sake, spare me the speech – I’ve listened to it for a decade.” See him also as the beleaguered principal in Graduation Day.

    *

    Jamie Lloyd // The Return of… &
    The Revenge of…

    It’s Danielle again! Laurie Strode’s orphaned daughter Jamie (until H20 went and stomped all over that thread) becomes the unlikely heroine of the late-80s Halloween franchise, as Uncle Michael wakes from his coma to come and end the bloodline for good, primarily targeting little Jamie, who shares an unclear psychic connection with him. An outstanding acting job from the 10-year-old Harris leaves many of the more accomplished players in the dust.

    *

    Lynda // Halloween

    Who couldn’t totally love Lynda? Nobody, that’s who! As one of Laurie’s girlfriends, PJ Soles, who’d already tasted teen horror as a nasty girl in Carrie, is the more carefree, hippie-esque member of their little group. But she’s totally nice. She might have sex in the bed of a total stranger and drink their beer, and totally not care about school or the future (kinda fortunate considering she had none), but she’s perky and sweet. Had she not totally died, I’d have foreseen a career in waitressing for Lynda. Fuh-neee…

    *

    Rachel Carruthers // The Return of… &
    The Revenge of…

    Jamie’s sister by adoption is initially self-obsessed high schooler Rachel (Ellie Cornell), who is too into her boyfriend Brady to realise he’s more into his own dick. Nevertheless, Rachel is able to alter her priorities and take lil’ sis trick or treating, thus entering into the nightmare of escaping Michael. She puts Jamie first in everything and pays the ultimate price in the next film. Sad times.

    *

    Tommy Doyle 2.0 // The Curse of…

    Here’s a curveball. Halloween 6 was one of the first slasher films I ever saw and thus I probably am too kind to it. Part of the appeal of the Halloween franchise up to this point was bringing old characters back into the drama, in this case Tommy, one of Laurie’s babysitting charges from the original, now a Myers-obsessed weirdo living across the street from THE MYERS HOUSE! Paul Rudd allegedly hates the film, but he gives a twitchy, interesting performance anyway.

    *

    Laurie Strode // I, II, H20 & Resurrection

    THE final girl of all final girls, Jamie Lee Curtis’ took Laurie from bookish nerd to, well alive bookish nerd – and later alcoholic head teacher. Ignoring what became of her in the sequels, Laurie is just everything in the first film. Youwanther to be your big sister, your babysitter, your friend. She’s just that nice girl you’d take home to Mom and Dad with about a gazillion thoughts going through her muddled mind, some of them not quite so innocent…

    *

    Dr Sam Loomis // All but Season of the Witch and everything after The Curse of…

    While I want Laurie to be my friend, Doc Loomis is Halloween, just as much as Michael Myers, if not more. Donald Pleasence’s engaging performance as he goes from self-assured to paranoid to eccentric over the arc of the five films he features in is like a cuddly old sweater you can’t throw away. Though if he was ever right about anything essential is never established as Michael kept surviving, but the character has influenced so many imitations in his wake, and after he died, the spirit of the series kinda went with him.

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  • 17 Jan 2015 /  Reviews

    AEROBICIDE

    1986/18/82m

    A.k.a. Killer Workout

    “This workout’ll kill you!”

    Director/Writer: David A. Prior / Cast: Marcia Karr, David James Campbell, Fritz Matthews, Ted Prior, Teresa Van der Woude, Richard Bravo, Dianne Copeland, Joel Hoffman.

    Body Count: 12

    Laughter Lines: “It’s cool to get kinky sometimes…”

    __________________________________________

    Olivia Newton-John has a lot to answer for. Back in the 80s when headbands were big, and hair was bigger, Jane Fonda had the world’s first leotard-graph, and day-glo spandex aerobics carried out to high-BPM synths was the soundtrack to life…

    Naturally, someone was going to find a way to make a cheesy horror film about it. Gymnasiums and their equipment have featured in a few slasher films over the years, from the weights used to choke a dumbbell jock in Final Exam and the chick on that upside down sit-up bar thingy who receives death by barbell in Silent Madness, right up to head-squish courtesy of a faulty weight machine in Final Destination 3

    But in 1986, along came Aerobicide, exclusively set in and around Rhonda’s Workout, a Los Angeles club where a killer wielding a GIANT SAFETY PIN is doing away with various members.

    There’s a lot of this…

    *

    Beginning with a woman fried alive on a tanning bed, things skip forward gleefully ignoring the event (but we know it’ll be relevant later), and find the temperamental gym manager Rhonda unhappy that moody Lt. Morgan is skulking around the joint suspecting everybody of being the safety pin killer.

    Lots of Eric Prydz-esque aerobics are punctuated by safety pin murders, always complimented by horrible sub-Knight Rider cop-after-perp chases are a construction site, as well as a couple of over-rehearsed punch-ups between the prime suspect, Jimmy, and new employee Chuck, who has taken it upon himself to solve the case.

    …and a bit of this

    *

    In spite of the cheery aerobics, the film suffers from electing too few likeable characters, populating the cast with unnamed gym members who utter a few inaudible lines before they exit the building of their own accord, or in a bodybag.

    A likely contender for cheesiest stalk n’ slasher, watch the final shot, which is held for so long the actor looks like they’re about to keel over with impatience.

    Blurb-of-interest: Joel Hoffman was in Slumber Party Massacre II.

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  • 12 Jan 2015 /  Reviews

    VALLEY OF DEATH

    1988/15/92m

    “A forgotten evil that will never die.”

    A.k.a. Valley of Death (UK); Memorial Day

    Director/Writer: Robert C. Hughes / Writer: George Frances Snow / Cast: John Kerry, Mark Mears, Lesa Lee, John Caso, Cameron Mitchell, Jimmy Justice, William Smith, Linda Honeyman, Erin O’Leary, Zig Roberts, Michael Inglese, Eddie D., Charles Douglass, Dusty Woods, Christina Sullivan, Livingston Holmes, Dan S. Farbeau.

    Body Count: 14

    Laughter Lines: “Any invasion of the eco-system by an unrestricted vehicle like this one could destroy that balance…”

    ___________________________________________________________________

    Another new campsite opening disrupted by another primeval killer is the main stretch of this meagre-budget outing, that combines ludicrous dialogue with the usual sprinkling of knife fodder.

    A slow build of weird occurrences is blamed first on a trio of obnoxious kids and some punk-rocker bikers, then the murder of a tubby rich kid is attributed to a bear before the last few campers team up to hunt down the stalker – who may or may not be the missing son of the gruff ranger who runs the place – before he hunts them!

    Alas, the makeup and wig budget was clearly on the low side, as our psycho looks like any other Sunset Strip spandex rocker of the era, fitting nicely with some of the names on the cast roster: Jimmy Justice? Zig Robertson? Linda Honeyman? Perhaps Valley of Death was a metal band before it was ever a film!?

    In a film that manages to rip off not only Friday the 13th but also some of its other knock-offs, such as the lamentably dull Final Terror, director Hughes avoids some of the more obvious clichés and makes Valley of Death quite a fun little movie with one or two pleasant diversions thrown into the barrel. Three people squashed by a truck tumbling down a ledge is darkly amusing.

    Blurbs-of-interest: William Smith was in Maniac Cop; Cameron Mitchell’s other slasher exploits include The Demon, Jack-O, Silent Scream, and The Toolbox Murders.

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